Midnight ramblers

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  April 8, 2010

What was the music you listened to?
Across the river, one could see some of the greatest R&B and blues artists at Louie’s Lounge, Basin Street, see BB King, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson. At the Jazz Workshop, people like Miles or Monk. The old Tea Party [rock club], which was called the Moondial — which was a synagogue — became an important place to gather, and a lot of the new bands started playing and music started to become culturally more important, to, um, Baby Boomers, shall we say. And rock ’n’ roll was starting to be taken seriously, as the second wave after the Beatles started . . . Dylan and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen and Neil Young and Hendrix — things got heavier, all puns intended. You could see concerts on the Cambridge Common and then the jazz scene was so tremendous here . . . Lenny’s on the Turnpike, Jazz Workshop, and Wally’s was going then — it’s still going now.

Boston had something unique for a musician, because of the schools and the universities. There was so much opportunity, places to play, college concerts, gymnasiums, hundreds of fraternity parties — and they all hired bands. Even the strip clubs down on Washington Street had live music . . .

You could take your time and learn your craft and the idea of talking about gross sales or how much you made was really considered, well, not proper. It would be like walking up to someone saying, “How much money do you make?”

So what happened?
Ah, therein lies the rub . . .

It’s pretty simple. The world got a lot more complicated. Real estate started changing. Laws. Insurance. . . . It was almost like oil. An economic opportunity existed, and once that entered into the fray, all hell broke loose and commerce started to become as important as the content. Also, the commerce made it possible to be able to continue with the content. But I think . . . I think it was like dominos, things started to fall. The Vietnam War became this galvanizing, rallying point for people, and I don’t think the country really has ever gotten over it.

Like rap. It starts off as a well-kept secret, subterranean, innocent, and then slowly becomes valued and then exploited, commerce takes over and it changes the diameter of it. And I’m not putting a judgment on it, but you asked the question what happened, and [it’s] just like today, I think, with technology. It’s almost as if you have to read three books at once. The information is coming at tremendous speed and I don’t think we really have fully absorbed it, though we know it’s changed. People don’t listen to an album. The last communal things people seem to do is go to a film — and even that’s about to change. And yet I see people discovering music and going onto YouTube and seeing Louis Armstrong or Little Richard. . . . It’s not my particular choice, but it’s exciting for someone to go on a Hank Williams search and here comes the bio and the clips and you could spend three hours going through Hank Williams. . . .

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